- Marjorie van Elven |
Pink is usually associated with baby girls, ballerinas, Barbies, and all things feminine. But it hasn’t always been this way: the stereotype of pink as a gender signifier only originated in the late 1800s in the United States. Until then, most babies wore white, a color which is easier to wash and to bleach.
What may sound surprising to some is that pink was not associated with femininity when pastel colors first began to come into fashion: “the generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl”, reads an article on Ladies’ Home Journal from June 1918. Manufacturers only settled for pink for girls and blue for boys in the 1940s, with gender color coding gaining traction in the 1950s, according to the book “Pink and Blue: Telling the Girls From the Boys in America”, by Historian Jo B. Paoletti.
Curious about these and other societal changes regarding the color pink? Then make sure not to miss “Pink: the History of a Punk, Pretty, Powerful Color”, set to open on September 7 at the Museum of the Fashion Institute of Technology, New York. The exhibition will explore how the symbolism of pink has varied throughout History by showcasing 80 men’s, women’s and children’s outfits from the 18th century to the present.
Curated by the museum’s director, Valerie Steele, the pieces will represent both Western and non-Western cultures. The exhibition is also set to include ensembles by iconic fashion designers, such as Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Alessandro Michele, Jeremy Scott and Rei Kawakubo.
FIT also to explore the idea of pink as an erotic, rebellious color
In addition to telling the History of the feminization of pink, FIT’s upcoming exhibition will also show how different shades of pink came in and out of fashion, according to the ideas and values societies attributed to them. From the pale pinks of the early 1900s to the “shocking pink” of the 1930s, all the way to the 1950s “pretty in pink”, the exhibition will cover it all.
The museum at FIT is also set to explore the erotic connotations attributed to pink over the years. “Among the reasons why pink is widely regarded as an erotic color are the pinky-ceige of Caucasian skin, which has led to the idea that pink is associated with nudity”, said the museum in a statement. Pink is also associated with certain eroticized zones of the body, such as the mouth, genitals and nipples, known as “pink parts”.
Pink also has a history of transgression, having played a role in the women’s and LGBTQ movements, as well as popular music associated with rebellious youth. The latest example of pink as transgression were the “pussy hats” worn at the women’s marches against Donald Trump, held in the United States in 2017, which the museum made sure to include in the exhibition.
Visitors will also see how contemporary designers are challenging the idea of pink as sweet and feminine. Commes des Garçons’ “Biker/Ballerina” and Valentino’s “Pink is Punk” T-shirts are two of the works to be featured in the exhibition’s final room.
Picture credits: 18th century dress, museum purchase. 2017.46.1. Photograph by Eileen Costa. Courtesy of The Museum at FIT.
Afternoon dress Pink silk taffeta, 1857, USA, museum purchase. P92.40.1.Photograph by Eileen Costa. Courtesy of The Museum at FIT.
Evening dress: Circa 1954, USA, gift of Virginia Pope. Photograph by Eileen Costa. Courtesy of The Museum at FIT.
Charles James dress. 1937, gift of Mrs. John Hammond. 77.89.3. Photograph by Eileen Costa. Courtesy of The Museum at FIT.
Baby, the Stars Shine Bright ensemble. 2009, Japan, museum purchase. 2010.50.2. Photograph by Eileen Costa. Courtesy of The Museum at FIT.
Céline dress. Spring 2017, France, gift of Céline. 2017.19.1. Photograph by Eileen Costa. Courtesy of The Museum at FIT.
Comme des Garçons Ensemble, Fall 2016, “18th-Century Punk” Collection, fall/winter 2016, Japan, museum purchase. 2017.52.1. Photograph by Eileen Costa. Courtesy of The Museum at FIT.